When I first emailed Nate to get involved with the music aspect of Ragtime, my intention was to learn as much as I could from Professor Kelley’s style of music directing, and later be able to apply my knowledge to music direct a future Hoof n Horn show. A semester later though, having sat through many more acting, blocking, and choreography notes than would ever be relevant to teaching the music, I can safely say that I’ve learned about music directing, but I’ve learned a lot I didn’t mean to learn as well. Many of the things I’ve learned may seem trivial to others in the cast, but as a person who has never been on stage before, I can definitely say these are new things for me.
1) A many time repeated quote from Jeff: “Acting is all about the other person.” I had never thought about acting in this way, but now it makes so much sense. In real interactions with others, expressions, gestures, and verbal reactions are not pre-meditated, but instead come as a response to the actions and words of others. And it should be no different with your characters in order to bring them to life.
2) I had never before realized the extent to which actors must know things about themselves and the scene beyond what is said or happens on stage. I thought it was particularly funny how Jeff often makes up story lines for things that happen off stage to help actors with their character as they enter. It seems silly at first, but I’ve now watched it transform the way people both enter and exit the stage while remaining in a non-static character.
3) Although repeating scenes over and over becomes tedious after a short amount of time, I think we all tremendously benefited from Jeff’s insistence to re-do transitions and always ‘go back’ to the thing that happened before the action in question. It seems so frustrating at the time to repeat actions so many times, but I think this is one of the key elements that allowed our dress rehearsal to run so smoothly the first time without major scene change catastrophes.
There are hundreds more little things I could include on this list, but those three are some of the biggest. So although none of these lessons have to do with ‘what I signed up for’, I feel like a great deal of what I’ve learned in this production has been through acting like a sponge to all pointers and information beyond just the music.
– Sam Giugliano